Rangers manager Steven Gerrard admitted he is concerned by the failure of his players to heed his warnings to improve their discipline as they were knocked off the top of the Premiership.
With Celtic drawing at Motherwell, Rangers dropped to second, one point adrift of new leaders Kilmarnock who went top with a 2-0 home victory over Livingston.
Gerrard’s team collected their eighth red card of the season as Alfredo Morelos was sent off for a second bookable offence midway through the second half of their 1-0 defeat against Aberdeen at Ibrox.
Aberdeen were already down to 10 men, having had Sam Cosgrove dismissed for two bookings in the first half after Scott McKenna scored the only goal of the game after seven minutes.
Gerrard, who had convened a squad meeting on Tuesday morning to address the issue of the amount of yellow and red cards his players were accumulating, could barely conceal his irritation on a night when he felt they were fortunate not to finish with just nine men on the pitch.
“I’m concerned about it,” said Gerrard. “There is only so much I can do. I’ve made it very clear they are not helping themselves. They are making their task a lot more difficult. They are putting more stress on each other, on their bodies. We miss key players for important games.
“It’s very difficult for me to back them and protect them because 24 hours after a team meeting about controlling discipline, it’s very tough for me to take right now.
“Alfredo’s first booking is a little bit soft but probably a foul. The second one he deserves. We’ve got another red card which is hugely frustrating. We could have had another one – Kyle Lafferty was on a yellow card and gave one foul away after another. He left the referee with the opportunity to put us down to nine men.
“I never once felt good tonight about anything that we did, individually or collectively. I gave the players so much praise and they have done extremely well before this game, we were in a really good place coming into it. But tonight is certainly a big set-back. The performance as a group wasn’t good enough to beat Aberdeen, even at 11 v 10 the performance wasn’t good enough. We got the majority of things wrong tonight all over the pitch.”
Aberdeen manager Derek McInnes described referee Steven McLean’s decision to dismiss Cosgrove as “astonishing”, insisting his second booking was clearly not a foul. It was the only sour note for McInnes as his team bounced back impressively from Sunday’s League Cup Final defeat to Celtic. “We had to pick ourselves up off the floor after the final,” said McInnes. “This is a real shot in the arm for us. We defended brilliantly and there was tenacity all over the pitch.”